No Press Diplomacy


The previous section described the syntax of different types of orders. This section discusses different ways of communicating without press using these various moves. However, not only should this set of techniques provide you with the means to do that, but it should also give you a good idea of what to keep an eye out for as the possible recipient of communications from other powers to you. As is shown in this section, one can communicate with powers that are quite far away geographically. Your neighbor's neighbor may be your enemy's enemy, meaning that you should not be looking for communication just from your neighbors, but from other potential allies as well.

You will notice that many of the orders discussed below are not legal moves according to the rules of Diplomacy. However, that a move is illegal does not mean that you cannot submit the order. In hand-adjudicated diplomacy, you can order an army from London to Naples. It won't succeed, but you can order it. While the PBEM judges are a little more restrictive, they too allow certain types of infeasible orders. Keep the distinction in mind as you may find yourself saying "But you can't do that!" in response to many of the techniques I present.

The communication section is divided into the following sections:
Declaring War
Suggesting Moves
Proposing Peace and Forming Alliances
Proposing Draws

Declaring War

Declaring war is probably the easiest thing to do without the use of press, since it is done almost exclusively without press even in games that allow press. Declaring war is usually a means to an end, and not an end itself. In other words, one does not usually decide to try to communicate declaration of war to somebody, as much as one engages in acts that negatively affect the position of another power in order to improve one's own position. This negative impact is taken by the other power as an act of war, and is followed by a retaliation in the form of offensive or defensive moves.

Since there is usually not an explicit attempt to communicate a declaration of war, I won't belabor the point. If anyone isn't aware that somebody who is attacking you or supporting attacks against you might be declaring war, you may want to observe a couple of Diplomacy games before jumping into one yourself.

Suggesting Moves

There are a number of ways to suggest a move to another power. The first way is using a move order. The only way to suggest a move using a move order is to request a convoy from another power by ordering your own unit as if it were receiving the convoy you want. For example, if you are Turkey and you want Austria to use its fleet in the Ionian Sea to convoy your army from Greece to Naples, you would order Army Greece -> Ionian Sea -> Naples.

As stated previously in the syntax section, the PBEM judge rejects moves if there is no valid convoy path (fleets in each of the bodies of water you specify) for the order. In other words, the judge would reject the above move if there were no fleet in Ion. In hand-adjudicated games, that restriction does not exist, allowing you to request convoys more than one phase in advance. Thus, if Austria had a fleet in the Adriatic, you could send in the above order to suggest that Austria move to Ion and convoy you the subsequent turn. Whether or not it is likely that Austria would do so is of course a different matter.

Two other ways to suggest moves without press are by either supporting or convoying the move you want to suggest. For example, if as Germany you order a unit in Holland to support a French unit from Picardy to Belgium, the meaning of that support is an indication that you want France to make that move. Likewise, if as Germany you order a fleet in the North Sea to convoy a French army from Belgium to London, that too has an obvious meaning.

In games which are hand adjudicated, you can support or convoy pretty much any move at all. Unless your GM decides to impose his own requirement for valid moves as the judge does (which is usually not the case), there is nothing to prevent you from supporting or convoying any unit from anywhere to anywhere, regardless of whether or not the move is possible. You can convoy fleets, convoy units to inland provinces, or order support from anywhere to anywhere; you can even send in orders for nonexistent units. An extreme example would be Russia suggesting that France attack England by using an army in Warsaw to support an army from Paris to London when there isn't even an army in Paris (not that an army in Paris could get to London if there were one there [not that Russia could support that move from Warsaw even if the move were possible {get the idea?}]). In other words, the language of communication in hand-adjudicated games is extremely flexible, allowing you to suggest virtually any move at all if you have a unit to spare.

In PBEM judge games, the fact that the judge checks certain things for a support order to be valid cuts down on your options. The judge only accepts support orders that follow the Hasbro Diplomacy rules - meaning that you have to be able to move into the space into which you are offering support. Because you have to be adjacent to that space, you can only suggest moves using support orders if you happen to want a power's unit to move adjacent to you, which is usually not the case.

Fortunately, the judge is not nearly as strict with convoy orders. The judge does not check for the existence of valid convoy paths, so you can order convoys that could not possibly succeed. This means that if you are Germany and are at war with France, you can use a fleet in the North Sea to order a convoy for an English Army in London to Brest (to suggest that England join you in attacking France) even if there is no fleet in the English Channel to complete the convoy. Aside from not having enough fleets, the judge also accepts orders for a convoy that is invalid because there is no convoy path that includes a particular body of water. For instance, a German fleet in the North Sea could never be part of a path for the convoy of an army from Naples to Marseilles because the army could not both leave and reenter the Mediterranean through the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Yet, the judge will accept this order as well.

But what really makes the convoy order a useful tool for communication is that the judge allows a fleet to order a convoy even if it is in a coastal province. This allows you to use any fleet to communicate even if it is not in a body of water. Furthermore, the judge does not check that the source province and destination province are coastal provinces, so you can order convoys for armies from inland provinces to inland provinces.

Because there are so few restrictions on what the judge will allow for convoy orders, using a fleet you can suggest nearly any move at all. There are a couple of exceptions: because the judge checks to make sure that convoy destination province is not a body of water, you can't suggest an attack on a body of water using a convoy order. Finally, since the judge only allows you to order convoys for armies, you can't suggest orders for another power's fleet using convoy orders.

The last way to suggest a move is using a proxy order, although proxy no-press games are not very common. Because the judge will accept an order for the proxy of a unit that does not belong to you, you can suggest that a power proxy a unit to you (or to another power) by ordering that proxy yourself. For instance, Italy can submit an order that proxies a Russian unit to England, and while the order can not succeed, it will show up in the move results. (Interestingly enough, there seems to be a bug in the judge code that prevents the order from succeeding in the once case when it should: if Russia proxies that unit to Italy, Italy's proxy order is a valid order for that unit and control should therefore be proxied over to England. The result, however, is "No order processed".)

Proposing Peace and Forming Alliances

There are a number of ways to communicate a desire for peace to another power. One rather obvious way is to support a unit of a power that you want peace with. For instance, if Italy wants to propose peace to Austria in Spring 1901, Venice can support Austria in Trieste. Even if the Austrian fleet moves instead of holding and the support is not used, Italy's peaceful intentions will be understood. You can also propose an alliance by supporting an attack against another power, or even supporting an attack which is clearly in the direction of another power. As was mentioned in the previous section, communication using the support order is relatively easy in hand-adjudicated games but is somewhat restrictive when playing with the PBEM judges since the judges only accept orders that are legal according to the Diplomacy rules.

You can also communicate a proposal for peace or an alliance using a convoy order. The peace proposal is communicated by using a fleet to order a convoy for an army of the power you want peace with to Switzerland. Switzerland, which according to the rules is not in the game because of its neutrality, is a clear indication of your desire not to be at war with a power. To propose an alliance with a power, you order a convoy for one of its armies to a supply center or province that belongs to an enemy power. Both of these are relatively easy to do since the judge is not very strict about the convoy orders it accepts.

Another way to express a desire for peace is to propose a demilitarized zone with a power. There are a variety of ways of doing this - some a little more risky than others. Probably the best way to do it if you have units available is to force a province to demilitarized by setting up a self-standoff (i.e. a self-bounce) that will keep it empty. A common example of this in a Spring 1901 phase is for the French armies in Marseilles and Paris to bounce in Burgundy. That communicates your desire for a DMZ in Burgundy and also keeps the German army in Munich out that turn. In this case, France would probably self-standoff once and leave the next turn (in order to take Spain and/or Belgium). This can be risky since France doesn't know whether Germany has "agreed" to the DMZ. Later in the game, when you have units to spare, instead of leaving the next move you can continue to self bounce until the unit of the power leaves or at least communicates some peaceful intentions to you.

Another way to set up a DMZ is to end up with a de facto DMZ. This is done also through bouncing, but using one unit of two different powers. For example, in Spring 1901, both Russia and Austria may move units to Galicia and bounce. They can then continue to order the same units there, repeatedly bouncing, without ordering other units to attack each other or to support the attack into Galicia (see Declaring War, above). This approach is effective in keeping Galicia empty, but requires both powers to dedicate a unit to do so. Of course, having expressed the desire for a DMZ, one of the powers can stop bouncing and hope that the other, after moving into Galicia due to the lack of bounce, wishes to preserve the DMZ and pulls back out. If both powers are agreeable, they can both then use their units elsewhere.

You can also use the techniques described in the previous section for suggesting moves to communicate a proposal for a DMZ to another power. This is achieved by suggesting that the other power's unit move away from the province you want to demilitarize. For example, an Austrian fleet can order a convoy for a Russian army in Warsaw to Prussia to indicate a desired DMZ in Galicia.

One more way to attempt to set up a DMZ is simply to not move into a space and hope that a neighboring power doesn't move there either. This is a bit more risky because by moving away from a province without explicitly communicating the desire for a DMZ, you leave an opening for another power to move right in. For instance, if France moves Marseilles to Spain and Paris to Picardy in Spring 1901, he risks letting Germany walk right into Burgundy that move.

Once established, this type of DMZ sounds more tenuous than the others since it was never explicitly expressed by both powers. However, DMZs tend to be more temporary in no-press games than in games with press. It is not uncommon for DMZs that were set up bilaterally to only last as long as both powers are otherwise occupied with wars at other fronts, or so long as neither power would have a significant payoff from breaking the DMZ, so it may be more proper to say that all types of DMZs are equally tenuous. One should be cautious in leaving DMZs of any type undefended or underdefended.

Finally, if proxy orders are allowed, you can show peaceful intentions by proxying one of your units to another power. Manus Hand came up with a way of proposing a three way alliance by you ordering a proxy for a second power's unit over to a third power. I'm not sure if this has ever been done since proxy no-press games are uncommon and because most people don't know that you can submit a proxy order for a unit that isn't yours, but the intent of such an order will hopefully be clear to the other powers.

It should be noted that you can use more than one of the above techniques at once if you have the units to spare. The more ways you communicate something, the more likely it is that the recipient will get the message. While this won't guarantee that the other power will accept your proposal, it does reduce the chances that he misses it.

Proposing Draws

Most of the methods for communication have been discussed in the previous sections on suggesting moves and proposing peace and alliances. Many of the ways of proposing draws are used using similar communications, but in a different context. For instance, you can communicate peace by ordering a convoy for another power's army to Switzerland. If you are one of three remaining powers and you convoy one of each of their armies to Switzerland, (and perhaps even one of your own armies if you have an extra fleet to order) the suggestion of peace among the remaining powers is a draw proposal. You can similarly suggest a draw by supporting units of all other powers to hold, ordering proxies for various units of one power to the other, or by repeatedly suggesting peace using any of the other various means that were discussed above.

The one way to further emphasize your desire for a draw is to start waiving builds. Waiving a build implies that you have no further use for additional units, which indicates that you don't plan on further expansion. Of course, you may not want to waive build if you have a defensive use for additional units, even if you do want a draw.

Obviously, the best thing to do to achieve a draw is to establish stalemate lines first whenever that is possible. From that safe position, you can propose a draw using support or convoys without the danger of being attacked. Furthermore, since some Diplomacy players refuse to accept draws unless the position is a stalemate, it is much more likely that a draw will pass. If you communicate a desire for a draw, other powers who agree to the draw can also start moving toward stalemate lines even if not every power agrees to the draw. You will often be able to help establish and support stalemate lines for other powers as well as yourself. Once stalemate lines protect all the powers and not just you, any powers who did not agree to the draw earlier are left with little choice but to accept it.


When playing in no-press games, one should always examine the move results carefully. At the very least, one should scan all move results looking for the name of your power in somebody else's orders. You shouldn't be looking only for units that are attacking yours, but you should look for somebody trying to support or convoy your units. You also shouldn't be looking at just the orders of your neighbors, but of all the powers. A power quite far from you may be trying to ask you to attack a neighbor, or may be asking neighbor to attack you.

By looking only for your power's name in other players' orders, you may be missing important information . You should also be looking for convoy or support orders that involve provinces (not only supply centers but non-supply center provinces) that you occupy. By "occupy", I don't mean that you necessarily have a unit in the province, but one that is behind your front lines or that you consider to be within your sphere of control. For instance, if Russia has eliminated Turkey, a suggested attack on Smyrna is a suggested attack against Russia. As will be described below, intentional bounces also have meaning, so you should keep an eye out for a power that is bouncing its own units as well.

However, you should be looking for communication not just to you, but between other powers as well. If you only look for communication that involves your units or your territories, you will miss information that is as important if not more-so: everyone else's communication! Because all communication is done through orders, which everyone gets to see, there is no such thing as private communication without press. In a game with no-partial press, would you only read messages that are addressed to you? Obviously not; you'd read them all.

It's relatively easy to tell which powers are attacking which others. You should make it your business to know not just that, but which powers are suggesting attacks against you, who is trying to create alliances with their neighbors (or your neighbors for that matter), who is making enemies, who can be trusted and who can't. You can't know a power's future intentions, but you can know a power's current standing with any other power based on past history as well as anybody else does, because all communication between them was there for you to see.

Now that you have a variety of techniques for communicating without press, probably the most important cautionary comment I can make is to use them with discretion. In some cases, you can order a unit to do something you want it to do and still communicate with that order. However, more often than not, using a unit to communicate means not using it to improve your offensive or defensive position, attack a power or defend yourself. You are far better off holding off on communication attempts until you can spare a unit than you are in detrimentally affecting your position by wasting a potentially useful move.

Another point I wish to draw your attention to is that just about every order discussed in the syntax section can be used to communicate a number of different things: a DMZ, an alliance, a suggested move, etc. You should keep in mind that there may be situations in which although your intention is clear to you, it may not be clear to the power with whom you are communicating.

This ambiguity can cause problems or can be used to your advantage, if you are trying to cause a problem.) For instance, as England you may convoy a Germany fleet from Holland to Norway to suggest create an alliance against Russia. Germany could interpret this as your offering a convoy and might order Holland to convoy to Norway the next move. If your next move is to attack Norway thinking that Germany will move against Russia in another way, Germany may feel deceived or irritated at having wasted Holland's move on a convoy that you didn't provide.

Similarly, if you support power to hold or to attack another power simply to indicate a desire for peace or for an alliance, that power may misinterpret your action as an offer of support and may expect it the following phase. If there is no detrimental effect to not receiving the expected support, it generally won't cause problems. If, on the other hand, the power loses a supply center or a good position due to not receiving your support, there may be repercussions to you. While ambiguity can not always be avoided, it should be in cases where the consequences could be significant (unless, of course, that is your intent).

One last note of caution is that just as with games that allow press, deceit and stabs occur in no-press games. They may even occur more often since I've heard people say that it's easier to stab in no-press games because your ally seems more anonymous than somebody with whom you have actually exchanged written messages. So play as cautiously as you would in any game: don't leave yourself vulnerable to attack by an ally, don't assume that any DMZ or alliance is permanent, and always consider the possibility that communications could be intentionally ambiguous or misleading if the sending power has something to gain from it.

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Simon Szykman
([email protected])

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